In May of 2015 I spent a few weeks travelling through China and Japan, exploring some of the most interesting places I’d ever been to and taking in the vastly different societal aspects of the two ancient countries. Wandering the many streets, alleyways and trails opened my eyes to just how much Asian cultures stand in contrast to those of the west in North America and Europe. I kept my camera close, and wrote a series of reflection papers in my spare time throughout the journey that documented my experiences and insights.
Here’s a little peek into my geeky brain during my first adventure in Asia.
Adventures in Asia
Part I: To Move Forward, We Must Coexist
My journey begins in Suzhou, an ancient Chinese city that has in parts remained unchanged for centuries. The Pingjiang River is lined with old shops, theatres and teahouses that carry Suzhou’s time-honoured customs to this day; the feeling is surreal as I step into a world blanketed in history and tradition. Pingjiang Road leads us to our first destination, one of Suzhou’s famous outdoor gardens.
The beauty that can be observed in China’s many outdoor gardens is unparalleled in any western setting, at least that I have ever seen in my lifetime. Today’s visit to two of Suzhou’s famous gardens, the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lion Forest Garden, showed me just how much of an effect nature can have in an urban setting. The hustle and bustle of the busy city streets is juxtaposed by the serenity within the gardens’ walls; the persistent sound of constantly honking cars and mopeds is quickly drowned out by the quiet calm of the winding paths and still water. Even the chatter of tourists seems to fade away in the vast, maze-like expanses. The landscape feels almost uncanny, like stepping into a storybook that only exists in the imagination.
To me, it feels as though these Chinese gardens are a symbol of mankind’s ability to coexist with nature, and the appreciation and respect our species holds for the balance between man and earth. The meticulous care taken to create and maintain these idealistic gardens echoes the environmental respect that is valued in Chinese culture; urban sprawl is a modern day inevitability, and these pockets of lush greenery provide an elegant and inspiring escape from the chaos of everyday life. Despite the highly populated and pollution-ridden state of large Chinese cities, oases such as the ones we visited today offer an element of regeneration and natural vigour that seems virtually unobtainable in any other form.
We’ve destroyed so much of the world to make way for industry and what we perceive to be progress, but disregard for the importance of nature in our modern world is suicide. As populations continue to grow and natural resources dwindle, it is imperative for us to remember our strong ties to the environment as we move forward into the future.
Read Adventures in Asia Part II >